The Atlanta Falcons, with the third overall pick in the 1968 AFL/NFL Draft, selected Tennessee State defensive end Claude Humphrey. The 6-4, 252-pound Humphrey was an impact player who immediately justified his first-round status. His outstanding play earned him NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Although it didn’t become an official NFL statistic until after he retired, Humphrey is credited with 122 career sacks. A devastating pass rusher, he led his team in sacks nine of the 13 seasons he played for the Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, including his rookie season when he dumped opposing quarterbacks 11.5 times.
Despite playing on a Falcons team that had only three winning seasons during the 10-year span that he played, Humphrey managed to earn first- or second-team All-NFL or All-Pro honors eight times. He was also named first- or second-team All-NFC seven times and was selected to play in six Pro Bowls.
Durable, Claude missed only two games in his first seven seasons, but in 1975 he suffered what many thought would be a career-ending knee injury that sidelined him for the entire season. A fierce competitor Humphrey battled his way back in 1976 and delivered an impressive season of play. Again he led the Falcons as he posted a career-best 15 sacks. His teammates, impressed by his hard work and outstanding play, voted him the team’s Most Valuable Player.
Humphrey temporarily retired from pro football after four games of the 1978 season. In 1979, the Falcons traded him to the Eagles for two fourth-round draft picks. In Philadelphia the rested defensive end seemed to pick up right where he left off in Atlanta. Although he finished second in team sacks in 1979, his 31 quarterback “hurries,” were a team-best.
In 1980, Humphrey was in full form when he recorded a team-high 14.5 sacks, and his play was instrumental in leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance as the NFC champions.
Additional Humphrey statistics include two interceptions, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and two safeties.